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Not all conversion stories are created equal. This familiar one from Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, is one of the most deeply moving in the New Testament. It is considered by many as a masterpiece designed to brazenly demonstrate and highlight the extravagant desire of God, "to seek and save the lost," without which the mission of the church lacks an important dimension. He’s disliked by many because of the nature of his job but apparently, he is just as spiritually curious and needy as many of us are. In a desperate attempt, his infamous short stature led him to climb a sycamore tree, bursting out of his shell despite the presence of a huge crowd, to take a chance, to get a glimpse of this wandering, itinerant sensational preacher Jesus, reportedly passing down the streets of Jericho. That’s quite an effort in an obviously hostile environment. When Jesus took sight of him, he asked him to come down and said “for today, I must stay at your house.” He hurried down upon hearing his invitation, stood in front of him, and "promised to give up half of his riches to the poor and sought restitution to anyone he may have defrauded." Because of this encounter, his life dramatically changed, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have exhorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” The crowd reacted vehemently against this breach of etiquette that is, to sit at table with folks known as sinners.


Our biggest concern is the Zacchaeus' of our time, the seekers, those who shop around for churches, who probably have attended almost all worship services in town and still consider themselves Catholics. Their lives are intriguing. They do it for various reasons mostly, dissatisfaction with the service given them by the community. They are spiritual and would love to be religious and I guess, I know what they meant. They are our target. A significant number of these types of baptized Catholics have not reached the level of spiritual and religious maturity. They may have heard the Gospel and yet, haven't personally met the Jesus in today's Gospel asking them to come down for "Today, salvation has come to this house, for this man too is a descendant of Abraham," a fellow Catholic, just like you, a couple of years ago.

We may not have the same exact bizarre response as Zach promising to slash half of his assets, however, we are asked to respond with generosity to the growing needs of our community to serve the poor, to form a strong and solid faith foundation to our children, the young, and adults too who need both depth and a 2nd grade refresher, to maintain the physical plant and make it welcoming as best we can, among others. A while back, I inadvertently forgot to leave a tip in a restaurant. I was already pulling away from the parking lot when the waiter pursued me, “Sir, we’re living on tips…15% is mandatory here.” This gave me a huge lesson in church giving. If you can afford to get a latte, a 6- pack, giving at least 1%, 1.5%, 2%, 3%, 4%, to no more than 5% of your weekly income should be easily manageable. How much of your weekly income should you give to the parish? Ideally, your hourly wage. Let’s go the extra mile.

The Christian community is built to last under the flagship of self-less love, humility and generosity. The happiest people I know are the generous people. 



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